Team: Tappara Tampere (Liiga, Finland)
Draft status: 2016 eligible
Stats to date: 33 GP, 13 G, 14 A, 27 Pts, 0 PIM
Height/Weight: 6-4″, 207
About a year ago skating was considered to be Laine’s biggest single point of weakness. He has focused on that aspect though and worked with one of the top skating experts in Finland and has made huge progress in that area. He could still be more explosive and the first few strides could be better, but his top speed is actually cleary at least average. He is not exactly the most agile skater out there, but for a big guy his skating could be still considered good.
Laine’s shot is what differentiates him from other eligible players in this draft class. He can shoot the puck from any position and likes to use it often – his shooting totals in the Finnish elite league can be compared to those of Alexander Ovechkin in the NHL. Both his wrister and slapshot are of very good quality and he is able to launch them very quickly. He is also very good with one-timers.
Although being primarily a sniper type of player, Laine has very good hands. He can keep the puck in control even at high speeds. He likes to challenge the defensemen and has a collection of dekes in his repertoire that he can use when he drives to the net. In addition of possessing a world class shot and smooth hands, Laine is also a good passer and can fly saucer passes during the power play through the box. Laine has also developed his backchecking skills and often tries to do the Datsyuk-esque shift lift from behind and often succeeds at that as well.
Laine is a player with a very high hockey IQ. Although a shoot-first guy, he often recognizes the situations where it is better to pass the puck. He is also very good positionally at both ends of the ice. Laine is always aware of what happens on the ice and where all of his team mates are. Even though he has matured and developed lately, he still is sometimes a bit selfish with the puck.
Laine is by no means a hitting machine, but he likes to throw heavy hits every now and then. He does not shy away from battles and can use his strong body effectively. He also has a long reach that he is able to use well when protecting the puck. He is very strong in front of the net, although he prefers to play outside of the crease and use his heavy shot. Laine is still growing and should gain even more muscle to make him a very strong powerforward-sniper combination.
Laine is unquestionably one of the best sniper prospects to emerge since the likes of John Tavares and Steven Stamkos. His game has matured a lot even during this season and after a great performance in the WJC he has really picked up his game in Liiga also. His lethal shot makes him a very valuable asset for any team on the power play. Physically, Laine is already close to being NHL ready and will probably make the leap across the pond for next season. He is nothing but a lock to get picked in the top 3 in the upcoming draft.
Overall Future Projection: 64.5
Team: Kärpät Oulu (Liiga, Finland)
Draft status: 2016 eligible
Stats to date: 38 GP, 8 G, 10 A, 18 Pts, 16 PIM
Height/Weight: 6-3″, 201
Puljujärvi is a very strong and skilled skater that is very hard to stop when at full speed. He has very strong first strides and achieves his top speed relatively quickly. He can also alter the tempo of his skating so that it creates difficulties for the defenders trying to stop him.
Puljujärvi has an above average shot in terms of both the wrister and the slapshot. He isn’t a big time sniper but has a nose for scoring opportunities nevertheless. His slapshot is very powerful but it could use slightly more accurate. He could launch his shot from difficult positions, but there is room for improvement especially with one-timers.
Puljujärvi is a very skilled player in all sectors of the game. He possesses a wide range of dekes that he is comfortable using. Puljujärvi is a very skilled passer as well. His puckhandling skills are very good and he can control the puck under pressure. He is also a good and responsible backchecker and is positionally sound at both ends of the ice.
Puljujärvi possesses a very high hockey IQ with good vision. He could be profiled more as a playmaker than a goalscorer. He understands the game well and seems to be always doing the right things. He has great work ethic and can be used in any situation. His high hockey IQ shows espcially on the powerplay where he can excel.
Although Puljujärvi has good size, he could use his frame more. He is fairly good at protecting the puck, but there is a lot of room for him to improve that area of his game.
Puljujärvi is one the most intriguing winger prospects coming out of Finland in the past decade. He has played the majority of his games against grown-up men over the last two seasons, but hasn’t yet dominated the game like he has at every level at the juniors. His smarts and skills are undoubtedly already world class, but he needs to learn to use his size more as an advantage. Puljujärvi is a very complete player with a great understanding of the defensive side of the game too. He is on his way to becoming a very high draft pick in the next summer’s draft.
Overall Future Projection: 64.75